A city centre with heart

By: Anne Tolley

Commision News & Views
with Commission Chair
Anne Tolley

 Tauranga City Council commissioners have made some significant decisions over the past 11 months, but in adopting the refreshed Civic Precinct Masterplan at our meeting on Monday, we believe we have set in motion a process to restore heart and soul to the city centre.

As many people have told us, investment in civic facilities is long overdue. Previous councils have dithered over what facilities we need and what the priority is for developing them. We now have a clear vision of what the Civic Precinct – the area bounded by Willow, Wharf, Durham and Hamilton streets – could look like.

Subject to our advisors coming-up with a workable construction and financing plan, and community consultation via a long-term-plan amendment process early next year, we can now look forward to a progressive transformation of the city centre before the end of the decade.

The refresh is an update of the Civic Masterplan adopted in 2018, which was never implemented. It includes the library and community hub approved in this year’s long-term plan, a civic whare (public meeting house), a museum and an exhibition and events space.

The Baycourt Theatre remains but would be upgraded, and the civic space now extends through Masonic Park to the waterfront, creating an integrated cultural hub for locals to enjoy and be proud of and a destination for visitors.

A hotel and conference centre is also envisaged on the western side of Durham Street, but would be largely privately-funded.

All of these facilities will provide activities and experiences our growing population deserves, and which visitors would expect in the country’s fifth-largest city. They are long overdue and we now have to get on with the job and make it happen.

Funding of the development will be a key factor, but we anticipate that at least half of the estimated $300 million cost will come from outside sources.

The masterplan was prepared by Willis Bond, in consultation with tangata whenua, and specifically considers the location’s significant cultural history as the original area of Māori settlement.

This was a place where people gathered to discuss important matters, welcome visitors, learn, trade and enjoy everything Tauranga Moana has to offer. It’s therefore appropriate that the masterplan aims to restore the original purpose of the land.